John Obi Mikel reveals touching reason why he chose Chelsea over Man Utd in 2006 | inside World Soccer

John Obi Mikel reveals touching reason why he chose Chelsea over Man Utd in 2006

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel has finally lifted the lid on why he rejected Manchester United in favour of signing for Chelsea back in 2006.

In April 2005, a few days after Mikel turned 18, United announced that they had struck a deal with Norwegian club Lyn to sign the player.

Mikel was even pictured with United's No 21 jersey and spoke of his delight at joining the Red Devils in a hastily arranged press conference.

Matters were confused when Chelsea issued a counter-claim suggesting that they already had an agreement with Mikel and his agents.

The incredible saga ended only when Chelsea paid United £12 million in compensation and a further £4 million to Lyn.

It was one of the more bizarre transfers in recent memory and no one has ever been sure what happened or why Mikel changed his mind to sign for the Blues.

Now 31 and playing his club football in China with Tianjin TEDA, Mikel has finally revealed to the Players' Tribune what happened in 2006.

So before I tell you my story, let’s just get that bit out of the way first. It's been more than a decade and I still get asked this one thing about my time in England.

"Hey, what happened to you signing for Manchester United? How come you swapped for Chelsea at the last minute?"

Every time.

Well, my Dad wasn't too pleased about what happened either. He wanted me to go to Manchester United because he loved Alex Ferguson. Back home in Nigeria, a lot of people were saying I should go to United because of how well they work with young players, whereas Chelsea just bought superstars.

And it's true, I was only 18 years old and Chelsea had players like (Frank) Lampard, (Michael) Ballack and (Claude) Makélélé in midfield. A lot of people in Nigeria doubted that I could even make the Chelsea team if I went there.

So… why did I turn down the biggest club in the world?

I'll tell you what happened. I had all these people on both sides fighting over me. Agents, managers, strangers, guys handing me papers. I had Sir Alex Ferguson calling me on the phone on one side. And I had Roman Abramovich on the other side, putting me up in London, hiding me somewhere where only a few people knew where I was. It was really confusing, and I was a kid, you know?

After a while, someone from FIFA gave me a phone call. They said, "Listen, we know you're young and you have these two clubs fighting over you. We can't decide for you. You can only go where you want. You have to tell us."

I thought about it for a long time. It was the biggest decision of my life.

You know what made my mind up? Chelsea had signed three other players from Nigeria along with me. They were staying with me at the house in London to keep me company. These guys … their lives depended on the decision I was making. If I went to United, they were gone. If I went to Chelsea, they were going to have a career. No matter how long it lasted, that was important to me. Just to give them a chance, you know?

I chose Chelsea, and four lives changed that day.

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